London Walks connecting.
This… is London.
Story time. History time.
Yes, London Walks.
AKA Streets Ahead.
It’s Thursday morning, February 1st, 2024.
Today’s Pin – the news story – ran yesterday, January 31st, the fourth anniversary of the UK taking its leave of the European Union – is that poll. The front page Evening Standard headline was a play on the stock phrase Rule Britannia. The headline was Rue Britannia. The which was buttressed with the sub-headline: Damning poll verdict four years on from Brexit. And then underneath the headline a full page, front page colour illustration showed a despondent Britannia sitting on the Dover cliffs, looking very glum. Holding her head in her hand, what have I done? Trident broken and useless. Union Jack-covered shield battered and cracked. Moth-eaten, equally glum, tired old lion beside her. In the distance, the continent, flying the EU flag at half mast in sympathy for Britannia’s sorrow. If I were a Brexiteer I’d be worried sick about which way the demographic and educational winds are blowing. The poll said 70 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds think Brexit’s been a failure. 73 percent of graduates have the same negative view of Brexit, double the 36 percent of those without formal qualifications. And London’s right there with the youngsters and the well-educated: 67 percent of Londoners think we’ve been sold a pig in the poke, that it, Brexit’s, been a dismal failure. The good news for Brexiteers – but is it good news – is that only 38 percent of those over 65 think it’s been a failure. How many of those 65-year-olds are going to be voting the next time it’s put to a referendum, in say 2050? That’s the demographic nightmare the Brexiteers are up against. Anyway, for anyone wondering, that’s the front-page news Londoners have been exposed to in the last 24 hours.
Now as for a random. I learned earlier today that some years ago the Queen presented France with a dog. A living present that sniffs and barks and wags its tail. What really tickled me, though, was that the dog was taught elementary French, at Sandringham, before it was presented to our neighbours over the Channel. How charming is that?
Now, as for an Ongoing. This one’s just an announcement. There’s been one of those periodic bursts of creativity on the part of Team London Walks. Several new weeks coming on stream. Starting tomorrow, Friday. Rick Jones, the distinguished arts critic, is doing a walk he’s created and dubbed The Rugby Tour. To coincide with the Six Nations Rugby Tournament. It’s going to run every Friday afternoon through March 15th. Just do a search for Rugby on the walks.com search engine. Oh and Rick actually played rugby for Wales. So the sport’s a passion, he knows whereof he speaks.
Moving on, Ruth, the distinguished University College London geologist has created a series of Urban Geology Walks for us. Four different ones, one in February, one in March, one in May and one in June. Again, do a search for Geology to get the particulars. And the distinguished barrister, David, has created a new walk called Gamechangers! The people and events that changed Westminster and the World. It starts on February 10th.
And our espionage specialist – Dan Parry, the former BBC journalist and TV producer and author – has created a new cloak and dagger walk called Spies & Special Forces. It debuts on February 17th. Usual deal, full details on www.walks.com
Finally, the great actor, Nick Day, is doing, on June 9th, a Nick Day’s Theatreland Walk for us. Like the others, that’s going to be a major treat. Nick’s one of the finest actors of his generation. Fifty years on the boards, has been in 169 stage productions and of course lots of films and television. And a masterstroke of timing – the walk will take place on the anniversary of David Garrick’s final performance. David Garrick was of course the greatest English actor of them all. Everybody in the audience that night knew it was David Garrick’s farewell performance. When he made his curtain call, the applause was like the roll of muffled drums.
You’ve been listening to This… is London, the London Walks podcast. Emanating from www.walks.com –
home of London Walks,
walking tour company.m
London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size
walking tour company.
And as long as we’re at it,
London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.
And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.
That’s the key to everything.
It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.
It’s not rocket science:
you get what you pay for.
And just as surely,
you also get what you don’t pay for.
Back in 1968 when we got started
we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question:
Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world?
You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world
you do whatever you have to do
to attract and keep
the best guides in London –
you want them guiding for you,
not for somebody else.
the way we’re structured –
a guides’ cooperative –
is the key to the whole thing.
It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following,
a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.
It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases
By way of example, Stewart Purvis, the former Editor
(and subsequently CEO) of Independent Television News.
And Lisa Honan, who had a distinguished career as a diplomat (Lisa was the Governor of St Helena, the island where Napoleon breathed his last and, some say, had his penis amputated –
Napoleon didn’t feel a thing – if thing’s the mot juste – he was dead.)
Stewart and Lisa –
both of them CBEs –
are just a couple of our headline acts.
Or take our Ripper Walk. It’s the creation of the world’s leading expert on Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow, the author of the definitive book on the subject. Britain’s most distinguished crime historian, Donald is, in the words of The Jack the Ripper A to Z,“internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper.” Donald’s emeritus now but he’s still the guiding light on our Ripper Walk. He curates the walk. He trains up and mentors our Ripper Walk guides. Fields any and all questions they throw at him.
The London Walks Aristocracy of Talent – its All-Star team of guides – includes a former London Mayor. It includes the former Chief Music Critic for the Evening Standard. It includes the Chair of the Association of Professional Tour Guides. And the former chair of the Guild of Guides.
It includes barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians,
criminal defence lawyers,
Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre actors,
a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the big one, the Guide of the Year Award)…
well, you get the idea.
As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament,
every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”
And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar
and the familiar new.
And on that agreeable note…
come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks.
And that’s by way of saying, Good walking and Good Londoning
one and all. See ya next time.